How Far Can The World's Most Powerful Telescopes Actually 'See'?

We’ve all been curious about outer space. The stars, moons, and planets we see at night are just some of the things that pique our interest. For those who want to know—and see—beyond what textbooks have, the best thing to have is a telescope.
How Far Can The World's Most Powerful Telescopes Actually 'See'?
How Far Can The World's Most Powerful Telescopes Actually 'See'?

These telescopes bring you to outer space without all the spacesuits and flying. You get to see stars and planets up close at night if you have the right one. 

But the world’s most powerful ones see more beyond that. Curious to know just how far these telescopes can see? Read on. 

History of Telescopes

Telescopes were not inventions of the 21st century. These devices go way back and have paved the way for many scientific discoveries now being studied by students and scientists worldwide. 

However, nobody could really account for who made the first telescope. What people do know is the person who first applied for a patent—Hans Lippershey. In 1608, Lippershey was a Dutch eyeglass maker who first claimed that he could magnify objects three times using a device. 

But conspiracies say that Lippershey only stole this idea from Zacharias Jansen, who was a fellow eyeglass maker at that time. 

When Galileo Galilei heard about this device in 1609, he immediately designed one of his own. To everyone’s amazement, he didn’t have to see one to come up with a better design—glasses that could magnify up to 20 times. 

He then presented his device to the Venetian Senate, which landed him a lifetime job as a lecturer at the University of Padua. 

Then, in 1610, Galileo pointed telescopes toward the sky and out to outer space; he discovered the Milky Way, the rings of Saturn, craters of the moon, and many more. If Galileo could already see Saturn rings from Earth during his time and using his own device, imagine how far telescopes today could see. 

Powerful Telescopes All Over the World  and How Far They Can See 

Technology has made it possible for us to do many things, including going to outer space. Scientists who choose to stay down on Earth get to use advanced telescopes that can reach even millions of light-years away. 

Here are some of the world’s most powerful telescopes and how far they’ve reached: 

South African Large Telescope

Located in one of the darkest observatories in the world, in Sutherland, Northern Cape, the South African Large Telescope (SALT) is the largest single optical telescope on the planet—it gathers and focuses light creating a magnified image. 

It has been in full since 2011 and is also called Africa’s Giant Eye. 

This telescope has the ability to see even a tiny candle on the surface of the moon. In 2016, SALT was used to help discover the first white dwarf pulsar. This exotic binary star system is 380 light-years away. 

Hobby-Eberly Telescope

The Hobby-Eberly Telescope is considered to be one of the world’s largest telescopes. Originally, it was designed to decode the light from stars and galaxies to study their properties. 

It was first constructed in 1997 at a fraction of the cost of similarly sized instruments. It was later upgraded in 2016 at the cost of $40 million to expand its field of view to 120 times larger than before. 

In 2012, the Hobby-Eberly Telescope was used to measure the mass of a black hole 220 million light-years away. 

The Giant Magellan Telescope

Set to be completed this year, The Giant Magellan Telescope is expected to be a powerful earth-based telescope. It’s located in the Las Campanas Observatory in Chile, where light pollution can’t really disrupt it. 

It will use seven of the world’s largest mirror segments that each weigh about 25,000 pounds. These mirrors will be fully maximized to answer one of the earth’s persistent questions. 

Will there be life outside the Milky Way Galaxy? The galaxy is about 100,000 light-years across, and the telescope is set to see outside of it. 

Gran Telescopio Canarias

The Gran Telescopio Canarias is an optical and infra-red telescope and is considered the largest and most advanced aperture telescope globally. 

The telescope is currently located in La Palma, in the Canary Islands. 

It has done a lot for astronomical research, including the image of a galaxy that was about 500 million light-years away. The telescope’s reach was 10 times deeper than any other telescope currently on the surface of the earth, which was a huge feat for the telescope.

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